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SVG urged by PAHO Director to invest more in health care

SVG urged by PAHO Director to invest more in health care

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The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has been urged to invest more of its gross domestic product (GDP) into health care as “universal access to health and universal health coverage is fundamental for development” locally.

This was the assertion of Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director Dr Carissa Etienne, as she delivered her address at a recent conference for Caribbean and subregional health care managers that took place last Tuesday.{{more}}

“We believe that every man, woman and child should have access to health care that they need, when they need it and where they need it, which does not cause them impoverishment,” insisted Etienne.

“To do this, we have to have well organized health systems; we have to have health systems that are based on primary health care – that look at comprehensive health, not just curative.”

The PAHO director pointed out that SVG currently invests 2.4 per cent of its GDP into health care, whereas PAHO recommends a minimum of six per cent.

She further noted that although the Caribbean region is a world leader in terms of strengthening its primary care health systems, there is much room for development still – which includes SVG.

“It is clear that your country is well within the epidemiological and demographic transition. You have a rapidly ageing population and a growing number of elderly. You are seeing the transition from purely communicable diseases to the overwhelming challenge of non-communicable diseases – they are now your number one cause of mortality, and even morbidity, I daresay.”

Despite this, Etienne lauded Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves for selecting Luke Browne to head the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, as the Government makes further advances in its ‘Wellness Revolution’.

She explained that with less than three months since being appointed Health Minister, Browne has demonstrated great knowledge of the various projects and initiatives that the Ministry is working on, and he has shown “vision, enthusiasm and passion” in his duties.

Etienne cautioned the Minister of Health that the challenge to revolutionize health care in SVG will not be an easy one, but that the goal is highly attainable.

“PAHO is fully behind you!” she assured Browne.

Browne also delivered an address at the PAHO conference, which was held for the first time in SVG this year.

He announced that his Ministry is committing itself to a renewal of primary health care in SVG.

“We are talking about it in the broad sense of the word… Taking health as close as possible to where the people live and work. We propose to transform the health sector from curative, hospital based approaches to preventative, community-based ones,” he explained.

Browne was quick to point out that this new focus does not mean that secondary and tertiary care services will be eliminated.

“Otherwise, it would be pointless to invest in upgrading our main hospital, to build a modern medical complex and to build an acute referral hospital in Arnos Vale…

“We believe that we are moving in the right direction, but I am also well aware of the fact that we have to constantly assess and re-assess ourselves and our systems and our procedures to see how we might improve things, and do things better.”

The Ministry’s wellness policy encompasses five “strategic” areas, which include: 1) diet, nutrition and physical activity 2) tobacco, alcohol and drug use control 3) mental, sexual, social and spiritual health 4) environmental and occupational health 5) chronic non-communicable diseases and control.

Browne expressed sincere gratitude to PAHO for its assistance in various projects over the decades since SVG established a relationship with the organization in 1981.

In particular, he thanked PAHO for its assistance in upgrading the Georgetown health facility to a smart hospital.

“We appreciate the help with the conversion of the hospital, especially so in light of the fact of further commitment – on the part of PAHO – to carry out similar conversions on other health care centres.”

He added: “PAHO is an invaluable partner for the development of our health systems.”

In addition to representatives from around the region – such as PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Godfrey Xuereb – local notable figures within the health sector were also in attendance. These included former Minister of Health Clayton Burgin, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Luis de Shong, Chief Medical Officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache and Epidemiologist Dr Rosmond Adams, among others. (JSV)

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